Rachel Skipper (Class of 2013)


The knowledge and skills I've gained through my undergraduate work are of huge importance to me. I have developed an understanding of many areas of interest, research questions, and methods for finding answers.


Update: June 2014

"Following graduation I was hired by the lab in which I conducted my undergraduate research (Dr. Jennifer Quinn's Systems Neurobiology Lab) and am currently working there as a research assistant. I am continuing my investigation of the effects of early life stress on adult learning and memory; ultimately, I aim to characterize a behavioral animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I also enjoy mentoring undergraduate students with similar interests, and hope to soon publish two studies that I conducted as an undergraduate lab member.

"In the fall, I will continue my research as a Ph.D. student in Dr. Cara Wellman's lab at Indiana University. I am excited to pursue two doctorate degrees there—one in psychology and one in neuroscience. Specifically, my doctoral research will explore cellular mechanisms in the brain which may underlie the harmful effects of early life stress that I observe in my current research."

Original Conversation: October 2012

Senior Research

"My independent research in Dr. Jennifer Quinn's lab centers around the biological mechanisms underlying learning and memory. I work with Dr. Quinn and the students in our lab to understand how the storage and retrieval of long-term memories occurs.

"More specifically, my thesis work this year will relate to both childhood trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by studying fear memories and learning among juvenile rats. Our findings will be important, as they pertain to a lesser researched topic in this field—stress responding in juvenile animals."

"My undergraduate research experiences have given me a deeper understanding of many neuroscience-related concepts, including laboratory procedures, experimental design, controversies among researchers, and ethical concerns pertaining to research. By working first-hand on these topics with members of my lab, I've learned not only to understand the issues, but also to appreciate their complexities."

Dean's Scholar Program

enlarged photo of Rachel Skipper discussing research"The financial support I've received from the Dean's Scholar program, along with funds allotted by my department chair, Dr. Leonard Mark, has been instrumental in this learning process. Through their support, I've been able to attend two academic conferences with other Miami neuroscience lab assistants and graduate students.

"At the 2011 Society for Neuroscience conference, I attended my fellow lab members' presentations, heard about and discussed work coming from other labs, and familiarized myself with the conference overall. When I was again able to attend in 2012, I added to these experiences by presenting a poster with my lab's research findings and by taking the next step toward graduate school in talking with recruiters from potential programs.

"Overall, these experiences have contributed to my understanding of, appreciation for, and motivation to contribute to the scientific community and my field of interest as a whole."

Impacts on Post-graduate Efforts

"As a future graduate student, the knowledge and skills I've gained through my undergraduate work are of huge importance to me. I have developed an understanding of many areas of interest, research questions, and methods for finding answers. This experience continues to prepare me for future work.

"Additionally, as application deadlines approach, Dr. Quinn's mentoring, assistance, and advice helped me in making decisions as to my future in graduate school. I look forward to applying all of my undergraduate research experiences when I begin to pursue the answers to my own research questions in a graduate program."

Miami Experience Highlights

"Multiple experiences stand out as highlights of the last four years; in summary, I can attribute nearly all of them to collaboration with faculty, coworkers and friends within the Howe Writing Center and the Department of Psychology.

"As a writing consultant and student manager at the Howe Center, I have improved my collaborative skills and earned multiple opportunities for mentoring and leadership. More important to me, though, are the lessons I've learned and experiences I've had working with other consultants and with the students who visit the center. The mentoring, collaboration, and shared interests with other consultants, who have also become my friends, and the opportunity to help others seeking assistance had turned my student employment at Howe into both an enjoyable and beneficial experience.

"The support I've received from my coworkers and, most importantly, from the faculty within the Department of Psychology have also highlighted my time at Miami. I began my first undergraduate research experience as a freshman working in Dr. Eynav Accortt's lab, assisting with research on biofeedback as a potential treatment for depression among women; at the end of three years' work in her lab, I presented our research at the Association for Psychological Sciences Convention. Dr. Accortt was supportive and helpful in my learning process, and the overall experience of working with her to become familiar with an area of research, develop a lab space and study, collect and analyze data, and finally present the research at a scientific meeting played a huge role in developing my research interests.

"During my time at Miami, I have also focused on peer tutoring and mentoring through the Undergraduate Discussion Leaders program and Center for Psychological Inquiry. This has in many ways shaped my education, experiences, and career goals, as I've gained a focus in assisting others with their work. The process overall stands out among other experiences due to the encouragement I've received. Through their support, Dr. Mark and other faculty affiliated with these programs have been huge motivators for me—for which I will always be appreciative."

Why Miami?

"As a senior in high school, I was eager for more than a change of scenery—I wanted a new direction, new opportunities, and new goals on which to focus. I hoped to find all of these at a school with a solid reputation and tradition, and at one which stood out to me among other universities. Now, as a senior in college, I know I made the right choice. At Miami, I found a new direction in selecting my field of interest, chose from many opportunities for personal and academic growth, and have accomplished my goals at a school with a long-standing, solid academic reputation and tradition."

Advice for Other Students

"Looking back on my experiences, I would advise new and potential Miami students to set similar goals for themselves, and to devote the next four years to achieving them. I would suggest involvement in at least one of Miami's research labs, internships, and/or student organizations, not only for academic achievement, but also for personal growth, independence, and leadership. All of these things should be outcomes of, and are things to work for during, the next four years.

"I would also highlight, here, the importance of seeking out supportive peers and friends. I've learned that the motivation and support from others is important, if not necessary, for one's own success.

"Finally, since I've seen how fast these four years can go, I would just advise incoming students to make the most of the time they have, and would encourage them to take in and enjoy the experience while they can!"

[October 2012]